UT-Austin service organizations hold virtual community service opportunities

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Addie Costello | Daily Texan Staff

Student organizations are adapting to COVID-19 regulations by participating in virtual community service, which some students say is limiting possible connections.

Amulya Cherian, the internal service director for Humanity First, said they would participate in childcare and homework help at a local refugee housing shelter during a normal semester. Now, they meet over Zoom, which makes communication harder. Cherian said Humanity First is a service-oriented organization focusing on local and abroad service.

“We have to coordinate with the parents, the kids and the actual shelter, so it’s very stressful,” neuroscience sophomore Cherian said. “Our main thing is … we can work together and collaborate, but now our service feels a lot more isolating.”

Cherian said the organization canceled their abroad trip last semester due to COVID-19, but they created a program teaching English to students in Ecuador over Zoom this semester. She said although it’s virtual, they’re still making necessary connections.

“It’s very exciting because they think we’re the coolest people ever, but I don’t think they should think that way.” Cherian said. “I think they’re the coolest people ever … so it’s just very cute.”

 

Katia Davis, service vice president for Alpha Phi Omega, said the organization often works with Austin’s homeless population. Davis said they would work with food pantry Micah 6 of Austin to help feed people experiencing homelessness, but since COVID-19, they’ve only been able to donate care packages, which has been very disheartening. 

Davis, an international business and international relations and affairs junior, said the hardest challenge has been keeping everyone’s spirits up.

“Everyone’s just stuck in one place so it’s easy to just drop off because everything’s virtual,” Davis said.

Ansh Jain is the music and tech officer and co-founder of Epiphany, a musical performing organization that works with the elderly community, specifically those struggling with memory. 

Jain, a computer science and mathematics junior, said Epiphany completely stopped operations last semester. He said not being able to interact with the home care residents has been difficult for the organization. 

“Our entire concept hinges around us going and performing and interacting with these residents, which we’re unable to do,” Jain said. 

Jain said he is hoping they will be able to put together a recorded show via Zoom to send to the residents. 

“We are (also) writing personalized letters to (the residents),” Jain said.